Today is the one-year anniversary of the death of my father. It amazes me how quickly the time has flown by, but so much of last year flew by in a blur mixed with both horrible and wonderful things, that it somehow all makes sense.
The very day after my father died, my mom had to start radiation treatments. So we barely had time to mourn his loss because we had to focus ourselves on that. But we did mourn him. I didn’t cry buckets of tears, but there were moments when this overwhelming sense of sadness would sweep over me as I remembered some happy moment that I put aside long ago. I guess that’s how it is for survivors of abuse. The bad times stick out and take precedence over the good. Perhaps that’s part of the wounds of abuse or some aspect of a survivor skill. I have no idea. This, like cancer is a journey and as with journeys of this type, you don’t always know what’s around the next bend in the road.
We picked up dad’s ashes from the mortuary about two weeks ago. It’s such an odd thing to feel the weight of a bag of ashes and know that each tiny grain was once part of someone you once knew.
Mom and I decided not to bury or spread them, so instead we have dad in an urn in our living room. Mom also has some of his ashes in a heart-shaped marble keepsake in her bedroom. I don’t feel any anger at her for this. She is going through her own journey too, so it’s not my place to judge, but to offer support and love.
At first, I wasn’t sure how to process the whole thing. But really is there an easy way to process death; especially when there are so many complicated emotions involved?
Just the same, there is an odd comfort in having dad home with us. I pat the top of his urn and feel such a sense of peace. All of whatever made my dad abusive to both himself and to me is dead, and neither of us will ever have to deal with it again. Except for my continued healing, of course. But, I never have to be afraid or keep my distance from him or my memories of him to protect myself. He is finally, peacefully OK and in that, I am finally, peacefully becoming OK too.
The first night after we brought dad’s urn home, I commented to mom that it was the first time we’d all been together under the same roof in years. Mom and I both smiled. You would think we would have been upset, but this was the way things worked out for us.
We are very much like the first lines of “Anna Karenina,” Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
I loved my dad, not all abuse survivors can say that or want to. But I can and it doesn’t mean I’m in a better or worse place than anyone else. It’s just how I feel.
I suppose I should feel sad that it took his death for me to feel what I do and for us to all be together under the same roof again, but I don’t. I feel an odd and wonderful sense of comfort. I feel it for dad as much as myself.
My dad made choices in his life that made our being together as a family impossible. I think we all wanted it, but because of his choices, our family history and a bunch of other things that I’m not going to drudge up, we couldn’t. We were always there for each other; dad took care of me on many occasions when I was sick, and mom and I did the same for him. We were the only ones with him when he was dying. We loved each other, but in our own way. And sometimes that love meant keeping our distance. That was our way.
Now we are separated by death, but somehow we are still together. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe dad is watching over me or in heaven or anyplace else. That belief system is not part of my spirituality. What I believe is that dad is finally at peace and finally free from all the troubles that haunted him in life. It’s a wonderful thing to know that he is beyond pain and beyond causing pain. My dad, a life-long insomniac, who often suffered for sleep, is finally asleep.
And me, my insomnia is improving after a long spell of sleeplessness. I have an odd sense of comfort to thank for that.
I love you daddy. I always have; in spite of everything.
And daddy, in spite of everything; I know you loved me too.